By Shari Narine
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
The Metis Nation of Alberta provincial council will be looking for a new treasurer.
A recent decision from the Metis Judiciary Council (MJC), the arms-length body that presides over complaints, has sided with three Region 3 members that their president Lawrence Gervais, who also held the position of treasurer for the provincial council, has been too often absent from meetings. Region 3 encompasses Red Deer south to the American border and goes east and west to the neighbouring provinces.
In a decision rendered Feb. 20 and acquired by Windspeaker.com, the MJC ruled that because Gervais missed at least three consecutive Region 3 meetings “without reasonable excuse” he was removed from council in accordance with MNA bylaws. His termination dates back to June 16, 2022, which means from that date forward he was not in a position to exercise his duties as regional president.
“The MJC interprets the MNA Bylaws to have the effect that a Regional President who has ceased to be a member of their Regional Council thereby ceases to be a member of the Provincial Council for that Region,” said the ruling.
“To interpret otherwise would open the process to abuse by a Regional President who, through their own actions cause themselves to no longer be a member of their Regional Council, could still purport to represent the Region as its Regional President and as a Provincial Council member for the Region. Such a situation could cause untold mischief and confusion for that Region, as well as the MNA itself, and must not be allowed,” concluded the MJC.
The MNA’s provincial council is comprised of a provincial president and vice president, along with the six regional presidents and vice presidents.
In an email response to Windspeaker.com, Garrett Tomlinson, senior director of self-government for the MNA, said they were informed of MJC’s decision Feb. 20 and would abide by it.
“The Metis Judiciary Council presides over cases independently and we respect their decision and authority,” wrote Tomlinson.
The ruling against Gervais is the result of a complaint filed in 2022. Adam Browning, who serves as treasurer for Region 3 and Lethbridge Metis local president, filed jointly with Jeannette Hansen and Darryl Campbell in July.
Gervais chose not to participate in the MJC virtual hearing after his last-minute request for an adjournment was denied.
Browning says he hopes that Region 3’s success in holding local leadership accountable will encourage other regions to question the competency of their local leadership.
“More of this needs to be done. Within each of the regions there needs to be more questions about the efficacy of the leaders and whether they’re actually democratically governing their regions. I think there is an avenue for other regions to challenge their leaders when it comes to decision-making,” said Browning.
Browning doesn’t believe that demanding answers from leadership should wait until the MNA’s Otipemisiwak Metis Government constitution brings in a new governance model nor does he believe that MNA members trust those who are running the process.
“We need better and more accountable leadership within the MNA, and I think we will need to challenge those in place to hold fair and free elections,” said Browning, who openly and vocally opposed last November’s ratification vote, claiming lack of overall consultation with members.
About 31 per cent of MNA citizens cast ballots and almost 97 per cent voted to ratify the constitution.
At the time of the constitution vote, Metis communities that had broken ties with the MNA had called upon Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Marc Miller to take a stand on what they viewed as a “power grab” by the MNA. Miller’s office responded by saying “an Indigenous constitution is an internal matter between the Indigenous government and their citizens.”
Browning continues those calls to Miller, saying the federal government needs to stop “endorsing some of these folks because they have untold amounts of money to control processes and work against us, a group of largely volunteers.”
Browning says the MJC `s decision this month underscores the need for the MNA to improve its governance.
Vice president Judy Gentes now becomes the president of Region 3 and an election will be held for a new vice president. Windspeaker.com reached out to Gervais and got no response.
Shari Narine is a Local Journalism Initiative Reporter with Windspeaker.com. The LJI program is federally funded.